Graduate school makes me feel stupid. No, seriously. I’ve been mulling on this thought for a while and have come to the conclusion that I am unable to state many concrete “facts” because, apparently, they are not so much facts as they are highly significant statistical values/correlations/coincidences.
In undergrad we are all so focused on the next higher thing, such as graduate school, that learning is really a euphemism for cram-everything-you-think-the-teacher-is-going-to-test-on than actually retaining, understanding, and utilizing that information. That last sentence was a gross over-generalization because I’ve had many classes where I was so interested in the subject that I would willingly spend my free time learning more about it, or going to my professor’s offices and hashing out my thoughts. But, for the most part, it was really just about memorization.
I’ve found that grad school isn’t so much about memorization (though there is a fair share of that) but really more about figuring out how to think about a subject. It’s a transition time from absorbing information to integrating what you’ve learned from several fields and applying it. I was, and still am, overwhelmed when I think about the vast complexity of public health. Things are no longer linear. They are most definitely webbed. For example, obesity research can’t really be complete without considering the basic sciences, genetics, the community layout, health behavior, food policy, the food industry, media, advertising, as well as many many others. All these things interact with each other to ultimately produce the myriad of body shapes we see. There is no one thing to pin obesity on so this makes public health prevention and intervention so much more important and, yet, so much more frustrating because there is no clear-cut answer to solve this ballooning concern.
Because of these complexities, whenever I start thinking about a public health issue my brain immediately wants to shut down because I think I cannot possibly keep all those thoughts separate and yet meld them together without it all becoming a mess. I kind of feel like grad school is meant to bring you down only so that you can re-learn how to use your brain. I remember being told that graduate school teaches you how to learn whereas undergrad teaches you how to memorize. I can vouch for that statement right now. I’ve been feeling pretty dumb lately but hopefully this only means that I am on the right track.